Saturday, January 12, 2013

Winter biking

We finally got a few days of sun, and they finally coincided with the weekend, so Anna and I decided to set off on bicycles in search of Castles and Birds.  The weather was chilly, but the sun felt nice as we headed out north of Marburg.  We passed a Sparrowhawk in one of the fields (similar to a Cooper’s Hawk back in the US).  Before too long, Anna had to consult the map, to ensure we were on course.  Due to my wife’s skillful navigation, we were soon at the first castle of the day, in Sch√∂nstadt (translation Pretty City).
Hmm... This looks familiar...

Schloss (castle) on the right and half-timbered house on the left, with horses and stables in front

It was more of a giant house, but the city lived up to its name, with many attractive-looking buildings, including some with gray slate tiling, which Anna’s parents’ guidebook said is typical of the area north and east of Marburg.  Sch√∂nstadt also had some very attractive half-timbered houses.

As we continued along, our feet began to feel chilly, and we wished for some nifty shoe cover things that help keep your feet warm when cycling in the winter (Anna’s unfortunately only half made it to Germany, and I’ve never owned any – we will each soon have a full set).  But that didn’t deter us, and we made it to our second and last castle of the day, in Rauschenberg.  Up a steep hill, we found the castle.  The first castle on this hill was started in the 13th century, and expanded in the 1590’s.  The castle was ruined in 1646, and the newer construction has not stood the test of time so only remains of the 13th century structure remain.

Below the castle, we found the Felsenkeller, which if my German is correct (and it rarely is), means cliff cellar.  To us, it resembled an interesting hole in the cliff-side, which of course meant we had to go inside and explore.


Down from the castle, and out through a gate and by a neat church, and we were on our way to our next destination: HOME.  Yes, there was a third castle about 2 km out of our way that we could visit.  Yes, there were some great ponds for birding that we were about to go right by.  But we were rapidly losing daylight and also the feeling in our toes.  So we headed straight home, except there wasn’t a road that went there, so we wound our way back, making a few wrong turns in the process.  My wife’s toes must have been freezing, since we passed some sheep along the way, and she barely batted an eye (Some of you may know that Anna has been somewhat obsessed with sheep lately). We also found a nifty little pond that provided excellent views of Tufted Ducks, Common Pochards, and Eurasian Moorhen, and we had a fleeting look at a Little Grebe before it dove under the water, never to resurface again (okay, so I’m sure it resurfaced again.  But either it could hold its breathe a LONG time, or it swam underwater to somewhere we couldn’t see).

Once home, I discovered the water in my water bottle was partially frozen, which will come as no surprise to you veteran cyclists, but was a novel experience for me.  All told, we covered 48 km with 2 castles en route.

And for the post-bike ride dinner?  Homemade sausage and red cabbage soup & biscuits!

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